Matthew Maxim #44

Great is the value of knowing what can't be taught, grasshopper.

What I don’t know can be learned. What I do know can’t be taught.

Okay, so at first blush, this phrase might seem like a rejected fortune cookie fortune or a line spoken by David Carradine on Kung Fu. But roll it around a little; this is a statement I’ve found to be completely true and relevant.

First, what do I not know? Well, a lot actually: how to do an oil change, any kind of advanced math, the fundamentals of basketball… For the sake of time, I’ll stop there. But you know the common denominator to all these things? I can learn them. If I chose to, I could set aside the necessary time, seek out sources of knowledge, study, and ramp up on these subjects. Heck, I could even become an expert if I wanted to. What’s to stop me?

Conversely, what do I know? Beyond just knowledge acquired over time, I know how to operate honestly. I know I must deliver on my commitments. I know that my reputation can take a lifetime to build and a split second to destroy. The common denominator here? You can’t teach those things. Not to an adult. Those are features installed at the factory. You roll off the line at eighteen or so and man, if it’s not there then, it likely never will be. If you’ve ever led a group of any kind or had employees, you know how true that is.

That’s why I think this maxim is so important and really, a corollary to Alvin Toffler’s great quote about ‘the illiterate of the 21st century.’

When you’re trying to assemble a winning team, look for folks who ‘know what can’t be taught.’

– Matthew Porter

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